Tuesday 6 December 2016

Probe into why Sligo girl missed liver transplant operation

Independent.ie reporters

Published 04/07/2011 | 13:25

An investigation into why a Sligo girl missed a liver transplant operation in London at the weekend has been launched by the health watchdog.

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In addition, the Minister for Health, James Reilly, has apologised to Maedhbh McGivern (14) and her family over the transport mix-up which resulted in her inability to travel from Sligo to London.

The investigation will be conducted by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

Because of the transport delays at the weekend, the organ was eventually given to another patient.

She has been waiting for a transplant since last August.

Earlier, Maedhbh’s father said the family is looking for an explanation so that the situation will not happen again.

Joe McGivern said that while he is not blaming anyone, the delay had caused "feelings of frustration and anger. We're wondering why this happened. If this had been a life and death situation, our little girl wouldn't be with us now."

He added that the family had not received any contact from the HSE since the events of Saturday night.

He said Maedhbh remains "distraught" since being told she wouldn't make it in time, just moments before boarding a helicopter in Sligo.

At around 7.20pm last Saturday, the McGiverns, from Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, received a long-awaited phone call telling them that a suitable liver had become available.

But because of HSE difficulties in finding an aircraft and the prospect of two refuelling stops for a helicopter, they would not have made it to Kings College Hospital until about 4am -- nearly nine hours later.

Time is critical when a liver becomes available due to the eight to 10-hour 'cold ischemic time' -- the period in which the organ can be successfully transplanted once it has been removed from the donor.

A stand-by Air Corps helicopter -- the first response for emergency transplant cases -- was unavailable due to a spinal injury incident in Kerry.

An alternative helicopter could not be used as it would not have had the range to reach Heathrow Airport.

The Air Corp's fixed-wing G4 aircraft was made available but this was turned down by the HSE.

It is understood that had it been accepted, the G4, which was due to land at the Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Dublin, at about 10.30pm, could have comfortably made it to Sligo and on to London before the 3am deadline.

Instead, HSE Ambulance Control, which organises transport in such circumstances, opted for the Coast Guard backup and secured a helicopter in Sligo. The family raced there under garda escort just after 9pm.

But when it became clear the helicopter journey would take about four hours and include refuelling stops, the transplant co-ordinator in London cancelled the operation at around 10.50pm.

Private aircraft -- used in the event that neither the Air Corps nor the Coast Guard can assist -- were largely unavailable due to demand for Wimbledon and the royal wedding in Monaco.

Meadbh McGivern has been awaiting a liver transplant since last August and has been "a prisoner in her own home" due to related illnesses.

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